x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Al Wasl will not give up pursuit for world-class striker after Forlan deal falls through

Marwan bin Bayat, the chairman of Al Wasl, predicts a frantic summer of transfer activity in the Pro League from rivals trying to usurp the Dubai club.

Marwan bin Bayat, the Al Wasl chairman.
Marwan bin Bayat, the Al Wasl chairman.

DUBAI // Marwan bin Bayat, the chairman of Al Wasl, yesterday predicted a frantic summer of transfer activity by rival Pro League clubs as they attempt to usurp the Dubai team's coup of landing Diego Maradona as coach.

But it was confirmed last night that one big name, Diego Forlan, would not be following the former coach of Argentina to Dubai after Atletico Madrid blocked the deal for a season-long loan.

However, bin Bayat promised that his club would not give up their pursuit of signing a world-class striker and would continue to raise the bar for the rest of the league.

"We have taken Al Wasl and the entire UAE football league to the next stage with the identity of our new coach," bin Bayat said. "We have created an incredible buzz. We shocked all the other teams.

"I know the UAE clubs were taken aback when they heard the news about Maradona coming here. I can't express what is happening right now with them but what I have heard, even just today, is that a lot of clubs are now looking for big playing and coaching stars to compete with us.

"That is good for football in this country. But it will be difficult for the others to top Maradona. He is something special."

While Wasl continue to refute claims that only Real Madrid's Jose Mourinho will earn more than their new coach, bin Bayat conceded that his two-year contract will be commensurate with the status of a World Cup winner and someone who was named joint Fifa Player of the Century. Bin Bayat also dismissed the idea that Maradona was lured to Dubai because of money.

"Do you really think Diego Maradona is coming here to destroy his reputation? Do you think a guy like him wants to join Al Wasl and not do a good job, not be a success?

"He is serious about this. He wants to do something in the coaching world and believes we would help him. He has seen good coaches come to this region and go on to top jobs on the back of their success here. This is why he is coming."

Bin Bayat was understandably disappointed not to follow up the signing of Maradona with the capture of Forlan, who has twice won the European Golden Boot and was named best player at the World Cup last year.

"I received a final answer from Atletico Madrid who regrettably told me that they could not loan us their player for a year," he said. "Now the direction has changed. Now we have to think about someone like a true striker, someone who loves scoring goals. This is my definition of who we should get.

"We have certain names in mind. I can't mention then because they have their own contracts now with their own clubs and we respect that. However, we are having negotiations ever day with players and clubs. We just need a yes from someone."

Maradona is expected to arrive in the UAE early next month but bin Bayat was unable to provide a firm date.

"The proposed date of his first date is in the first week of June," he said. "We are then going to have a big press conference because I know everyone wants to hear from Diego Maradona. There must be thousands of questions.

"And Maradona will answer those questions himself soon enough."

ncameron@thenational.ae